The Other Stuff

#3 – List all aliases:

I was asked about aliases recently as I filled out paperwork for my FBI background check. In Pennsylvania, if you plan to work with children, you need to prove—up-front—that you don’t have a propensity to molest them. To facilitate this, your employer needs to review your “Rap Sheet.”

The first time I heard the term Rap Sheet used in relation to myself, I laughed out loud. It’s a term I’ve ever only heard on detective shows.

“How do you know he’s a flight risk?”

“His Rap Sheet’s a mile long.”

I’m happy to say my Rap Sheet is blank, but on my application, I wound up listing an alias. For two years, I had an online presence under the pseudonym Charley Rider. I blogged; I had a Facebook account; I joined online communities for runners and cyclists, for mental illness advocates, for environmentalists and to engage in religious debate. I had a larger online footprint than most real people. I made friends, created correspondents. Everyone—maybe two hundred or so people—knew me as Charley.

Because he was completely anonymous (and not real), Charley was a slightly more colorful version of me. Angrier, happier, more outspoken, friendlier, more empathetic, more obnoxious. Charley took all of my smooth edges and made them pointier. He made you think.

Is it weird that I talk about Charley like he’s a real person? I think it is. That’s partly why I killed him. I was becoming increasingly comfortable with having an alter ego. There was always a minor internal conversation going on in my head: How would Charley react? He had to go.

And no, I didn’t actually make him die. I outed him. I linked Charlie Rider to me. Anyone who was interested could stay in touch with me as I became Jeff Cann (which is actually my name… swear to God).

I stopped posting on Charley’s blog, Undercrust, and began blogging as myself.

As Charley Rider, I wrote longform essays on the topics of mental health, fitness, rock music, family life and culture—many of these are topics I write about now—although I now work hard to keep my stories concise. I’ve learned that no one is interested in twenty-five hundred words expounding on the Walking Dead.

But initially, on jefftcann.com, the plan was to write about running. Maybe not exclusively running, but mostly running—maybe nine out of ten stories. I branded my blog as “Writing, Running, Other Stuff.” My banner was a running trail from a popular local race. My “About” page had my favorite marathon picture. I had recently restarted my training program, and I was escalating my mileage rapidly. I was obsessed with running, and I wanted to share it with the world. I expected a running magazine editor to read my blog and give me a monthly column.

So yes, my blog was about running. It’s right there in the title. Other stuff? That was just a catch-all phrase for the times another topic grabbed my attention.

As it turns out, there is only so much you can write about running. This is why magazines like Runner’s World recycle their topics every eighteen months. If you ever buy a two-year subscription, three quarters of the way through you’ll be thinking “Hey, I’ve read this before.” More and more, as the first year progressed, my stories slipped away from running. They became focused on the other stuff.

What other stuff? Well, Tourette Syndrome, and substance abuse, and parenting, and childhood, and books, and blogging, and even some fiction. Anything that was rummaging around my brain made it’s way onto my blog.

About a year ago, I renamed my blog “The Other Stuff.” By then, the running content was so rare, it was just another of the many topics I explored. But my banner, my “About” page, these were still focused on running. My tag-line was still Writing, Running, Other Stuff.

Last week, I finally decided to finish the job of re-branding my site. I recreated my banner, I rewrote my tag-line (Cultural Commentary, Mental Illness, Running—note: there’s still a nod to running, I’ve got at least a dozen stories on the topic), I updated my “About” page. Now my blog is focused on the other stuff… which is everything and anything that comes to mind.

I’d love to get some feedback on the changes. Do you like the banner? Is it engaging? Is the name too cryptic? Does it make you want to read… or move on to the next blog? I’m contemplating compiling an e-book. It will be many of the stories from this blog grouped by topic area—running, death, mental health, childhood, etc. My new banner is what I envision for the cover. What do you think? Does it work?

17 thoughts on “The Other Stuff

  1. I noticed the changes – I think they look great! I couldn’t get the “about” page to work for me (and then quit trying). I can see where your site is now more user friendly for those wanting to read what you may have to say about a topic in particular. I also thought it was neat you had an alias – planted a “hmmmm” thought in my head, indeed. But I see why you outed him. And I found the same thing with blogging about running – I found it easy to write about – easier than writing about autism – but there is only so much you can say before you’ve already said it before. (And thanks for the link on your “about” page – really appreciate it!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s definitely a freeing element to blogging anonymously. But after a while, I began to feel limited by it. And putting it all out in my own name was freeing in its own way. The links I published on my about page are all bloggers who I think are doing something really special. The way you educate by telling stories humanizes autism for those of us who are more removed from the disorder.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the banner change. It’s funny how much the expectations for blogging can evolve over time, many of my first posts were about fashion accessories, and I didn’t even have any interest in being a fashion blogger. What was I doing! Thanks for the motivation to update my own about page, things have definitely changed since I wrote it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll need to come by and check out your changes. One of my favorite parts of reading blogs is to get an idea of what a person is about when they aren’t blogging. It’s all a big puzzle, and the about page is a good place to get some clues.

      Like

  3. You may be right, although my experience with my last ebook is that no one just stumbles upon the book and buys it. It all seems to be sales to people I know or people who have linked in from my blog. It might not matter what the book looks like. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t *try* to put together an engaging package.

    Like

  4. I really like it, it’s sort of chill. Now I don’t get that guilty I-should-be-outside-doing-exercise pang when I look at your banner, which is honestly quite nice since I never get past that discomfort to actually GOING outside… I’m intrigued by how people took your alias’ demise. Was it a calm acceptance or did some people miss Charley?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was on blogger, the google platform. Many of my followers connected with me through Google+ but I didn’t keep up with my account and they went away. Probably 2 are still with me. There isn’t much crossover between blogger and wordpress… you’re either one or the other,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I suppose if you had a business blog, serving your writing career in a marketing sort of way, your title would be a problem. But, since the interest is miscellaneous topics, the vagueness of your title fits the personality.

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  6. I like the name the Other Stuff. When we think of how we define people in society, it’s usually what their job is, whether they’re married, whether they have kids, etc. The Other Stuff, to me, says that you talk about the stuff outside of that, and that’s where stuff gets interesting. As a blog, I love it and think it totally works. As an ebook cover, I’m not sold, personally. I’d need a good, descriptive subtitle to go with it. I’m also really partial to pretty graphics — the saying you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover goes for everything except books. That said, as a fan of your blog and previous book, I’d read whatever you put out because your writing speaks for itself!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I dig the banner. It’ simple and like a page fresh off a vintage typewriter. I agree it’s probably not cohesive as a book cover with that as a title though. “The Other Stuff” makes me think more of a collage as a visual.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For a blog, I really like ‘The Other Stuff’ Jeff. Writing for a blog really is something that runs (sorry!) in parallel with our daily lives. Sometimes I can’t quite tell whether my head/heart is more in life or in the other stuff of thinking about topics, flashing ideas (soon burned out) or imagining major projects for a future where there is more writing and less interference from, er, life. Which really is the other stuff?

    Not sure about the title for a book. Too vague? Indeterminate?
    Perhaps it could work with a pithy slug-line. “The Other Shoes: Thoughts of a writing runner” (or running writer).

    Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right, art or life. Which one truly is the other stuff? I don’t really fool around on facebook, and I’m not much of a face-to-face communicator. WordPress conversations are the deepest ones I have except with my wife and children.

      Liked by 1 person

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